Sometimes I think I’m living in a miniature forest. At sunset, every winged creature within hearing distance goes into a frenzy. Outside the library, a large flock of some kind of small winged bird wheels and turns again and again, emitting shrill, confused cries. On the treetops, crows strike up their ungodly cacophony. We make jokes and laugh. And drink hot, sweet tea in cheap plastic cups. Meanwhile, the sun continues to set.
Odd how fleeting they can be, those moments that one wants to guard jealously from the curse of forgetfulness. “I wish there were an invention that could let us bottle up memories, like a rare perfume,” said the protagonist of some half-remembered novel. But that’s the paradox – what is beautiful is seldom remembered with the same intensity that our worst failures and our unhappiest times come wheeling and dancing in front of our eyes. The French call it voir la vie en noir.
Sometimes memory is capricious, even when it is more benevolent. It selects trivialities to preserve: some oft-repeated joke; some random late-night coffee session with people the like of whom one is unlikely to come across again; some chance comment, positive or negative. (It seems not to be bothered to keep a record of those material successes that one would think would be of consequence in a person’s life.)
Like that one day when I went for a walk alone, trying to check my faltering knowledge of basic astronomy against the panoply of the winter stars – and was surprised to find the sky full of gently floating lights, “suspended twixt heaven and earth” for a local festival. Or that time I looked out through the doors of my room into the trees and gave thanks to God, for I thought my life was beginning. Or that other time when I thought it was all in vain, and wondered at him.
And yet it was the same sun, setting again. And before you could take it all in, there’d be a new day. Perhaps one with hurried, tense, yet rather comical huddles (“Everyone will talk about their own slides” –” We didn’t make any this time.” — “Fine, you people dress well and serve as eye candy.”). Or with that inevitable anxiety-laden wait till a quarter past one, when about four hundred people collectively groaned and cursed or sighed in relief. (They say that they could hear us in Gandhinagar.) Or one that would NOT end, however much you wanted it to, even when five people
burnt the midnight oil used the library AC to its fullest.
We never thought we’d run out of those damned, hated, cursed, loved days.